A long, long time ago. In a land far, far away…
So begins my hairytale. No, that’s not a typo. We’re talking hair today. My hair. Maybe even my people’s hair. But I haven’t decided all of that yet.
For as long as I can remember, folks had told me I had “bad” hair. “Greña” they called it. “Pajon” they teased. It might not have been intended (not everyone, anyway) but words from a tender age categorized my hair, and therefore me, into the “unwanted” category. In Dominican Republic, they call me javá (havah). It’s a phrase for light skinned Black people with “black” (read undesirable) features. Most prominent in my case was: hair.
I recall weekly rituals of hair washing and rollers. The hot ass hair dryer. Y’all, we used to have the coned-shaped, 1960’s complete-with-it’s-own-seat hairdryer. That’s how serious shit was at my house.
Because…far be it for this hair to ever be in its natural state. Natural? What the hell is that?! Oh yeah, it’s the thing I learned to fear. Relaxers led to long beautiful hair. Desirable hair. Hair that would get compliments, not ugly words. In part I learned that my value as a woman was tied to my hair.
“Don’t cut it short!”
“Keep it straight!”
“Your edges need a touch up.”
I experimented with braids in college. Poetic Justice braids, dammit. But I was tied to the hair dryer and then became a hair dryer dealer to my friends that were away at college since I lived at home. I’d shuffle my girls to my house where Mami would cook meals and I’d cook their hair under the cone.
It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I started to leave the mane in its natural state. Tameka, a brand spanking new hairdresser recommended to me did a great job trimming before I took off to D.R. with curly hair. Upon my return, I decided I’d be going to her every week. I was grown, y’all!
When I wanted color she said I had to choose, color or lye. I chose color and she worked her magic with those damn irons. Hot comb and irons became the way to smooth out the mane.
If I wore my hair curly, Mami might make a face. Always attempting to “smooth out” the front. I remember hearing her when I was young. She would tell people that I only had hair “like that” from the ears up. The back of my hair was straight. Like that was supposed to give me a pass. To this day I have 3 disrespectful ass strands of hair in the back that refuse to curl! My hair is so petty.
I never felt like a professional with a suit and the mane. Because the mane called out “I might break out into a Josephine Baker dance any minute now” before I came into a room even though I was there to present the project plan for a million dollar project.
I continued to let go of the discomfort instilled in me and learned to love my hair. Slowly. Surely. Definitively.
When the Frog Princess started really showing me what this hair of hers was going to grow into, I gave up the irons for myself. See, she has twice the amount of hair I do and from the day I started to comb her hair, it has been my desire to speak life and love into it.
I wanted to model curly and good and beautiful for her. I hope I succeeded. The other night she saw a picture of my long hair straight and told me she’d never seen it before. Check.
In December of 2013, an issue with highlights led me to a chop. My hair was about to my bra line at the time. I recall the ex being in love with the long hair. I recall a lot of people being in love with it. It reminded me of that question that others had planted “is my worth resting in my roots?”. The answer is simply: no. I cut it and I liked it.
When I attended a women’s retreat in November of 2014, I was given an opportunity for a hair makeover. After my hair had been colored and trimmed I looked in the mirror and said: take more. So she did. It was the first time that I really saw Mami in the mirror. She always wore her hair short. The hair that had earned her the nickname China as a young woman because that small percentage of Chinese showed up and out in that dark hair that refused to do anything but lay there like it was time for a nap. That hair that I most definitely am not familiar with on my own scalp.
Everyone was shocked but I felt free. Not only was I now comfortable with my curls. I was comfortable with my cut. And so it went. It’s just hair, right? It’ll grow back? Will you stop loving me because of the mane that grows out of the top of my head?
Last Fall I decided I wanted to play with color and I tried blonde. I liked it.
Then a few months back I wanted a break and the twists gave me so much life. So. Much. Life. It increased my fux deficiency by a quotient of 100.
For the last month or so I’ve been toying with color. Like color color. I had talked to my hairdresser aka the baddest hairstylist around, my cousin Nadiuska. I finally had a chance to slide into her chair and this is what I asked for.
Because…it’s just hair. And it’s decorative and for me, it’s meant to be enjoyed.
The hair I wear has nothing to do with you or what you perceive as my worth.
But rather it has to do with my freedom to choose and the right I have had since birth.
It’s what I am teaching the Frog Princess. It’s what I fight to maintain in my own life.
It’s big and bad, it’s happy and sad.
It’s all about how the winds of emotion fare.
But it is certainly good, beautiful and complete. This hair I wear…